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Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Time to check this one off the list:

"amy welborn"

It’s Moundville – and that really is the name of the small town where this archaeological site is located, this site full of…mounds.

It’s about 15 miles south of Tuscaloosa, which, in turn, is about 50 miles southwest of Birmingham.  It’s been on my to-go list for a while, but even so, I was surprised by how extensive it is.

So no, it’s not that far away and I’d heard of it, but this visit was kicked up the list a couple of days ago when I Michael found a coffee table book on “Mysteries of Ancient America” or something at an estate sale and I dug deep for the three bucks to get it for him.  He leafed through it and murmured, “This will be very useful.”  (He’s nine).

At some point he showed me a page with a photograph of a structure that caught his fancy – a mound with steps – always a plus when you can climb the archaeology. I said, “Where’s that?”  He shrugged and we looked at the caption which didn’t mention a country or state but did say, “On the Black Warrior River” and I said…”Wait – that’s Moundville!”

To discover that this awesome spot was an hour from his house and he had been allowed to be ignorant of this fact was too much.

This settlement of a Mississippian Indians was last inhabited over 800 years ago.  Its flourishing followed that of Cahokia, in Illinois, so archaeologists posit that at some point, this Alabama settlement was the largest city north of Mexico.

 

You can climb on two of the mounds, including this, the largest.

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The associated museum is small but quite good, having undergone a recent renovation.  The exhibits are very attractively displayed and clearly explained.  Even the two videos we saw are far beyond the lame level of the 1989-era videos one usually sees at historical parks.

 

 

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The back of the museum, viewed from atop one of the mounds.

As per usual, I found the modern history of the site just as (if not a bit more…) interesting as the ancient story.  Amateur archaeologists first explored and wrote about the site the mid-19th century, followed by more intensive work at the beginning of the 20th century by one C.B. Moore:

C. B. Moore was a wealthy man born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and educated at Harvard University. At the age of 40, Moore puchased a flat bottomed steamship, named theGopher, and navigated the Florida rivers during the summer. Concentrating on the shell middens and sand burial mounds along the rivers of Florida, year after year, C.B. Moore carefully excavated sites along the waterways. While Moore reserved the warmer months for traveling along the southeastern waterways and excavationg sites, the winter months were spent analyzing his findings and writing reports that were published by the Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.

In 1899, Moore ventured into Alabama traveling up the Alabama River. Then, in 1905, Moore traveled up the Black Warrior River where he spent most of his time excavating two mounds and surveying Moundville, a Native American center with over 20 mounds. Impressed by the size of the site and by the elaborate artifacts Moore uncovered, he returned the following summer to continue excavations. Moore was one of the first archaeologists to explore Moundville and document his findings, and, although his methods were not as sound as Jefferson’s, he nevertheless provided modern archaeologists with a wealth of information that might otherwise have been lost.

Then, a few decades later came Dr. Walter Jones (for whom the museum is named)

In the 1920s, several local citizens and state geologistDr. Walter B. Jones led efforts to turn the site into a park. Jones mortgaged his house to fund the purchase of the site, and Mound State Park (later renamed Mound State Monument) was established in 1933.

 Jones, assisted by David L. DeJarnette, began the first scientific excavations at the park in 1929. From 1933 to 1941, at the height of the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) restored the mounds, built roads, and constructed a museum. Jones, DeJarnette, and others at the Alabama Museum of Natural History directed the force, excavating 500,000 square feet of the site, and more than 2,000 burials, 75 house remains, and thousands of artifacts

One of the placards at the museum said that this excavation work was the largest ever in the United States – and still only 14 percent of the site has been excavated.

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The Black Warrior River

The museum is the only concrete building constructed by the CCC in Alabama (the others being stone/wood of course).

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(As I have said before, I find the history of the history fascinating and always have.  I blame, first of all, my 9th grade World History class which was excellent and based completely on interpretation of primary sources. Then I blame the honors history program at UT which had a hardcore focus on historiography, and then my favorite class at Vanderbilt, which was on historiography and for which I wrote a paper on the uses of historical evidence in the debate over women deacons in Early Christianity….I guess what interests me is the human response to the surrounding world and how we discover, understand and interpret that whether that be via art, historical work, religion, literature or just…living.)

No, it’s not Chicen Itza or Uxmal, but that’s okay.  We (and I mean we ) learned a lot and found the whole experience quite absorbing.  Hopefully we can make it back for the festival in October.

And believe me, it doesn’t matter if it wasn’t Uxmal.  We might as well have been back down there because all the day the air around us was filled with chatter from our resident archaeologist/herpetologist/musician as he recalled every detail of our visit to Mexico and reminded me – repeatedly – of places yet unseen…of Palenque and Coban and….

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Uxmal, earlier this year.

 

 

 

 

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At the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.

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Late last week, I decide that we’d take a little road trip.  Camps were done and over, Scout trip, Florida & South Carolina family trips are around the corner and here were these few days….

Let’s go!

We have read a lot of Twain this year.  Joseph read “The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” and The Prince and the Pauper on his own and we’ve read Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn as read-alouds.   I’d never been to the Twain boyhood home in Hannibal, it’s not horribly far…

Let’s go!

We have been to St. Louis (Hannibal is about a hundred miles north of St. Louis) before – a couple of times, but they were both pretty small, and neither remember a bit of it.

(I was telling Joseph today about his first trip to St. Louis.  It was 2001, He was about two months old, and I was speaking at the St. Louis Archdiocesan Eucharistic Congress.  As per usual, we decided to take in a sporting event.  In this case, we walked into a Cardinal’s game the very moment Mark Maguire hit (I believe) a Grand Slam (or at the very least a regular home run…but I do think it was a Grand Slam).  The place erupted, there were fireworks, and poor little tiny Joseph lost it…and still is not a baseball fan to this day….)

We left Sunday after Mass and were in St. Charles by 6.  Joseph slept all the way through Tennessee and most of Kentucky. I had “St. Charles” and “picturesque” associated in my subconscience for some reason, but what I didn’t realize was that it was the actual starting point of the Lewis Clark expedition, marked by  many plaques and a super-sized statue, with dog.

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Missouri River

 

 

 

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A bonanza of toads in the tracks.

 

 

A nice evening at the Missouri river-front park, although I can’t say much for the absolutely mediocre and fingers-drumming-on-table- slowly-appearing meal at the Trailhead Brewery.  Strike one for meals!

Up early to head up to Hannibal.

A librarian friend of mine asked if it was “touristy.”  Well, every other business is “Mark Twain” this or that, but is that surprising? Other than that, it doesn’t have a touristy vibe at all.  The little riverfront main street, while as typical as you’d expect isn’t a developed as the St. Charles equivalent, with far fewer restaurants and shops.

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On “Lover’s Leap” – name comes, of course, from Romeo and Juliet-ish myth with a Native American setting. Hannibal and the Mississippi down below.

We hit the cave first, though.  I didn’t know how admission to the cave worked, how the tours were timed or how busy it would be, so I wanted to get it out of the way so I wouldn’t be wondering about those issues all morning.  We arrived just as a tour was getting started – we missed the movie, but go the rest of the tour.  It was your typical cave tour, with scripted corny attempts at humor and the ritual pointing out of formations that seem to resemble animals.

While pricey, it was worth it if you’re interested in getting a better sense of Tom Sawyer – for this was the cave Twain based the story on, with several landmarks, including the cross that marked the treasure spot, clearly seen.

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For his illustrations, Norman Rockwell came to Hannibal for research.  He was struck by the cave, for all other illustrations up to that point, had depicted a cave dripping with stalactites and so on – it’s not the case. It’s a mostly dry cave marked by stack-like formations of rocks and narrow passageways. 

Now back up to town.

The museum “complex” is well-done.  You can read about it at the link, but in essence what your ticket buys is admission to several small houses   – the Clemens home, Becky Thatcher’s house, Judge Clemens’ office, Huckleberry Finn’s house – and two museums – one close to the Clemens home, the other, larger one, down on Main Street a couple of blocks away.

(Of course when we say “Becky Thatcher” we mean Laura Hawkins, the real person who inspired Twain.  Some with Huckleberry Finn/Tom Blakenship)

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The Clemens home is on the far right, mostly hidden. On the left are the Becky Thatcher home and the law office.

The museums were very good, with lots of photographs and quotes from Twain’s work offering a full sense of his childhood in Hannibal and his family’s background.  It was very interesting to see the connections between Twain’s life and his fiction.

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Kitchen in the Clemens home.

The larger museum was more clearly set up for school groups, with five large interactive areas, each based on one of Twain’s books. The second floor of this museum holds the originals of Norman Rockwell’s paintings for special editions of TS and HF, and a small, but decent collection of personal memorabilia – including a sad little death mask of Twain’s only son, who died when he was 19 months old.  He had three daughters, only one of whom outlived him.  She married and had a daughter, but that daughter had no children, so there are no living descendants of Mark Twain.

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The first attempt at lunch was at a place along Main Street where we waited for ten minutes to be seated in a restaurant where there were four empty tables, and then were brusquely told upon placing an order for a hamburger, “Oh, we’re out of hamburgers.”  Thnx Bye.

So we left and walked down the street to the place that the nice lady in the Becky Thatcher house had recommended in the first place – a cafe in the back of a Christian bookstore, called, not surprisingly, Christian Ambiance.

In spades.

Christian ambiance, indeed.

Very good food – homemade bread, included – served with interest and warmth.

This day revived my interest in Twain.   I’ve enjoyed reading through TS and HF with the boys, but had to remember today, as they played around in the interactive Connecticut Yankee section of the museum, intrigued by the premise and expressing interest in reading it, of that book’s strong anti-Catholicism.  It was, in fact, Twain’s disparaging remarks about Catholicism in Innocents Abroad that turned me away from him for decades when I read them as an older teenager. But I do think I’ll take a shot at Roughing It and Following the Equator.

Then back down the state highway, past this giant statue of Twain with tiny hands.  We arrived in St. Louis (proper) about 5, settled into the hotel, and then headed east to…

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…of course.

They’d been up it before, and Joseph had probably been 4 at the time, but he still had no recollection.  We arrived about 7, and didn’t have to wait at all – it seems to be a good time to go.

Such a fascinating structure.

More meal disappointment – returning to the hotel vicinity around 9:30, I pulled into a highly-rated diner that I could have sworn I’d checked out as advertised as open 24 hours.  They guy poked his head out the door and drew a line across his throat.  I assume that meant he was closed, although perhaps he was communicating me that he was in great danger and I missed the rather obvious signal?

(Checked the website when we got back..yup…supposed to be open 24 hours…)

All in all, a very satisfying 24 hours.  Low-stress learning and exploring, with the centerpiece being seeing with our own eyes what we’d only read about.  Seeing where Lewis and Clark began their journey and walking along the same river from which the pushed off – to me, that kind of experience is so helpful.  I loved taking the boys to Hannibal.  It was great for them – us – to immerse ourselves in this great – not perfect, but still great – writer’s childhood and, through the excellent exhibits, his creative process.  We could situate the Tom, Huck, Jim and everyone else in this small town on the river, we could look out and imagine that raft out there, be chilled in the darkness of the cave.  It shows the boys some truths about the creative process, which is certainly a mystery, but not magic, either.  Mark Twain’s stories came from a place, a time, and experiences. In addition, and of great interest to us,  Twain, like so many of the great American creative and accomplished minds, had relatively little formal education – that is – he didn’t go to school for very long.  So wandering around Hannibal on this very hot day, we can experience that truth one more time:  Living in a creative way in this fascinating, crazy world is about keeping your eyes and ears open and working hard – maybe even out of desperation sometimes  - to give that world something new.  School might be a part of that, or it might not, but learning, growing in wisdom, and bearing good fruit from it is what we do all the time, everywhere, because we can.

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Today is his feastday!

First, a General Audience from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, from 2011:

 

 

It is only the prayerful soul that can progress in spiritual life: this is the privileged object of St Anthony’s preaching. He is thoroughly familiar with the shortcomings of human nature, with our tendency to lapse into sin, which is why he continuously urges us to fight the inclination to avidity, pride and impurity; instead of practising the virtues of poverty and generosity, of humility and obedience, of chastity and of purity. At the beginning of the 13th century, in the context of the rebirth of the city and the flourishing of trade, the number of people who were insensitive to the needs of the poor increased. This is why on various occasions Anthony invites the faithful to think of the true riches, those of the heart, which make people good and merciful and permit them to lay up treasure in Heaven. “O rich people”, he urged them, “befriend… the poor, welcome them into your homes: it will subsequently be they who receive you in the eternal tabernacles in which is the beauty of peace, the confidence of security and the opulent tranquillity of eternal satiety” (ibid., p. 29).

Is not this, dear friends, perhaps a very important teaching today too, when the financial crisis and serious economic inequalities impoverish many people and create conditions of poverty? In my Encyclical Caritas in Veritate I recall: “The economy needs ethics in order to function correctly not any ethics whatsoever, but an ethics which is people-centred” (n. 45).

Anthony, in the school of Francis, always put Christ at the centre of his life and thinking, of his action and of his preaching. This is another characteristic feature of Franciscan theology: Christocentrism. Franciscan theology willingly contemplates and invites others to contemplate the mysteries of the Lord’s humanity, the man Jesus, and in a special way the mystery of the Nativity: God who made himself a Child and gave himself into our hands, a mystery that gives rise to sentiments of love and gratitude for divine goodness.

Not only the Nativity, a central point of Christ’s love for humanity, but also the vision of the Crucified One inspired in Anthony thoughts of gratitude to God and esteem for the dignity of the human person, so that all believers and non-believers might find in the Crucified One and in his image a life-enriching meaning. St Anthony writes: “Christ who is your life is hanging before you, so that you may look at the Cross as in a mirror. There you will be able to know how mortal were your wounds, that no medicine other than the Blood of the Son of God could heal. If you look closely, you will be able to realize how great your human dignity and your value are…. Nowhere other than looking at himself in the mirror of the Cross can man better understand how much he is worth” (Sermones Dominicales et Festivi III, pp. 213-214).

In meditating on these words we are better able to understand the importance of the image of the Crucified One for our culture, for our humanity that is born from the Christian faith. Precisely by looking at the Crucified One we see, as St Anthony says, how great are the dignity and worth of the human being. At no other point can we understand how much the human person is worth, precisely because God makes us so important, considers us so important that, in his opinion, we are worthy of his suffering; thus all human dignity appears in the mirror of the Crucified One and our gazing upon him is ever a source of acknowledgement of human dignity.

Dear friends, may Anthony of Padua, so widely venerated by the faithful, intercede for the whole Church and especially for those who are dedicated to preaching; let us pray the Lord that he will help us learn a little of this art from St Anthony. May preachers, drawing inspiration from his example, be effective in their communication by taking pains to combine solid and sound doctrine with sincere and fervent devotion. In this Year for Priests, let us pray that priests and deacons will carry out with concern this ministry of the proclamation of the word of God, making it timely for the faithful, especially through liturgical homilies. May they effectively present the eternal beauty of Christ, just as Anthony recommended: “If you preach Jesus, he will melt hardened hearts; if you invoke him he will soften harsh temptations; if you think of him he will enlighten your mind; if you read of him he will satifsfy your intellect” (Sermones Dominicales et Festivi III, p. 59).

Next, some photos of the huge Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua from our trip in 2012.

(I’m guessing there were no photos allowed inside…since I don’t have any of the interior)

(Sigh. I loved Padua -it is one of those mid-sized Italian cities that I find tremendously appealing – a vibrant, sophisticated interesting buzz around the carefully, but not fussily maintained medieval core.)

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— 1 —

That kind of week….

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Yes, we’ve been in the Charleston area all week.  Isle of Palms, to be exact.

I had never spent time here before my son and daughter-in-law relocated a couple of years ago.  (Well..not exactly true.  I did speak at The Citadel maybe 8 years ago or so….my primary memory, though, is being continually on edge while we were spending time in the Bishop’s residence, full of Old South Antiques as it was, and we having two under-6 year old boys as we did….)

I like it.

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— 3 —

This past Sunday, we went to Mass at Stella Maris on Sullivan’s Island.  It’s a tiny 19th century Gothic church, located right across from Fort Moultrie.  They have scads of Masses on the weekends – the area is so heavily touristed and the church is so small, including two concurrent Masses at 9:30.

Now, please note, if you can – the church seems to be mostly in its original state, which means that this is the original altar, with no extra altar stuck in the sanctuary.

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Yes, Mass was celebrated ad orientem.  It was mostly in English (except for the Gloria in Latin), and no Propers, but with decent hymnody and some Bach from the hard-working choir and organist.  The homily was quite good, centered on the concepts of exitus and reditus as an way of talking about the Ascension and mission.

And can I repeat?  Mass was celebrated ad orientem.  The Leonine Prayers were recited after Mass.  The homily was theologically substantive and evangelical. There were no self-referential extemporaneous goings-on. The place was packed.  The congregation was attentive, reverent and vocal.

Everyone survived and the earth continued to revolve (I think).

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From Fort Moultrie, Fort Sumter across the way.

 

 

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Fort Moultrie, on Sullivan’s Island

 

— 4 —

The major finds of the week have been a foot-long horseshoe crab tail, and this:

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Joseph found it on the beach, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what it was.  It (the striped thing) was alive, firmly attached to the shell, but a puzzle.

So we put it in water – planted it shell side down –  and waited to see what would happen.

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Of course – a sea anemone.

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Not as gorgeous as those you find in Pacific tide pools, but exciting because It Had Been Found.  A cute pet for a few minutes, until we threw it back into the sea, hoping for the best.

(Sorry for the lousy photos.  All I had was my phone, and of course I couldn’t see anything on the screen, so I was just pointing, pressing where I thought the button was, and, once again, hoping for the best.)

— 5 —

Today, we took a journey here:

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It is Capers Island, a barrier island.  We went on one of these tours, and it was fun - we saw lots of dolphins, learned about crab traps and oyster beds,

 

 

it was fun - we saw lots of dolphins, learned about crab traps and oyster beds, saw a huge dead horseshoe crab on the beach, and played amid this landscape. 

 

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Oysters

 

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saw a huge dead horseshoe crab on the beach, and played amid this landscape.

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(Seeing the dead horseshoe can never beat the time – two years ago, I believe – when down on the gulf, a live one scuttled past us in the water – that event made that vacation THE BEST VACATION EVER for then 7-year old Michael, to be sure. )

— 6 —

I threatened to make us all get white shirts and have our photograph taken jumping on the beach, but no one took me seriously because, of course they know me, so there was no reason to even fake horror at the thought….

 

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— 7 —

Beach reading?  Well, with two boys in the ocean, my eyes are pretty much glued to their bounding figures and bobbing heads, but when I can, I’ve been trying to read No Name by Wilkie Collins.  An odd thing, but it was free on Kindle, the plot sounded intriguing, the reviews were good, so 19th century beach read, here we go!

 

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For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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Or sitting.  In the hole he’d dug, surrounded by the sand walls was steadily let drizzle from his cupped hand.  Lost in thoughts of who knows what, content.

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Sayil, another ruined city nearby.

Uxmal was far less crowded, much cooler, and more interesting than Chichen Itza – the decorations on the facades is still intact.  More later.

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….guess I should have read the schedule more closely.

Since we’re a five minute walk away, and since it’s Sunday, we thought we’d go to Mass at St. Peter’s Sunday morning, and then stay for the Angelus.  The regular schedule indicates a 10:30 Mass.  So we got there about 10:15, in order to get through the security line, which was quite long….on the screens outside, the Pope was…talking…inside St. Peter’s.  I was thinking that perhaps it was a replay of yesterday’s Consistory, but then we hit the door, and the sounds inside matched the sounds outside (the Credo by that point)…so, um, there we were inside St. Peter’s, halfway through Mass being celebrated by the Pope.

There were no seats of course, so we tried to find various vantage points from which we could see something besides the ceiling – no such luck.  No one was moving from their hard-won SRO positions against the barriers, not even for angelic-looking children.  We wandered to the back, eventually, and stayed there since it occurred to me that from there, we could see the Holy Father as he processed out – well, we could, sort of, although he turned away to go through the curtains before he got to us – the boys saw his face, though.  Following are some photos – next post will be a couple of videos from the Angelus.

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Waiting to get into the Basilica

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Took this holding the camera over my head I never actually saw the altar with my own eyes.

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Waiting at the end of Mass

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And…there he goes.

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Cardinal Rigali

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Many men and women were wearing these, in honor of the new Cardinal from Nigeria

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At the end of every church event, someone has to stack the chairs.

 

Texts:

Pope Benedict’s talk at the Consistory

His homily for Sunday’s Mass.

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Today, we took the bus down the hill from Assisi to S. Maria degli Angeli, the location of the Porziuncola of St. Francis.

Afterwards we were at McDonald’s – so sue me, it’s the first time in about 2 weeks and it’s right there by the train station/bus stop  - dining in the midst of a couple dozen Italian high school students and a few young families.

Time to evangelize!

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This group of mostly sisters, with a few young laypeople, had been handing out flyers in front of the Basilica – I said “no Italiano,” as I do many times a day, but just my quick glance indicated that it was advertising for a youth/family event of some sort.

And what better place to spread the word than a McDonald’s full of young people at lunch?

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They hit every table, spent time with those that responded, regrouped at the end, then walked off together back to the Basilica.

It was impressive.

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Reaching out, inviting, dialoguing, going into the place where young people gather in person, not just virtually, not just waiting for them to come to you.

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Reminders…

“Christian Correctness (or perhaps “courtesy?”) in Church”

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Posted in S. Maria dei Servi in Padua.

Which is wonderful.  I love these mid-sized European cities.

This church is also home to a crucifix which was recently identified as the work of Donatello.  It is a quite interesting story that begins (in modern times) with a scholar running across a hand-written annotation in an early edition of Vasari’s Lives of the Artists. The story is here.  The crucifix is below.  One of the interesting points the article makes is that the crucifix has had a cultus of a miracle associated with it, and perhaps that is the reason that it has never attracted the interest of art historians:

How could art history have forgotten such a masterpiece? Ruffini posited two theories to explain why the work escaped notice for centuries. First, he believes that the miracle associated with the crucifix made it first and foremost a cult object. “The important point about miracles is that their agency is divine. The fame of the crucifix as a cult object eclipsed the name of the artist who made it,” Ruffini remarked. “Religion and art often help each other, but there’s also a hidden competition between artistic and religious values. When the religious significance determines how we look at an object, the aesthetic ways we look at it are removed from consideration.”

 

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